Copyright Lawsuit Targets Cover Songs on YouTube

From The New York Times:

In the latest sign of friction over the licensing of online music, a group of music publishers has sued Fullscreen, one of the largest suppliers of videos to YouTube, saying that many of Fullscreen’s videos — particularly cover versions of popular songs — infringe on the publishers’ copyrights.

Fullscreen is one of the largest of the so-called multichannel networks, or M.C.N.’s, which produce their own content — the company’s offices are in Culver Studios in Los Angeles, where “Gone With the Wind” and “Citizen Kane” were filmed — and represent the work of thousands of other creators of widely varying sizes. According to Fullscreen, the 15,000 channels the company represents have a total of 200 million subscribers and draw more than 2.5 billion views each month.

Among the most popular videos on YouTube are cover versions of popular songs, often by amateurs or semiprofessionals who have built a following online. But according to the suit, filed in United States District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday by groups represented by the National Music Publishers’ Association, most of these lack the proper licenses and do not pay publishers and songwriters the royalties earned from ad revenue. (Publishers represent the music and lyrics underlying songs, not recordings of them, which are covered by a separate copyright.) As YouTube has become the default listening service for young people, the music industry has frequently sparred with YouTube and its owner, Google, over the licensing issues, which can be confusingly opaque. YouTube, for example, is responsible for the licensing and royalties of user-generated content loaded directly to its system, but often yields that responsibility to M.C.N.’s and other major partners.

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